I spent most of the weekend watching my life pass before my eyes… over and over again until finally it played before a live audience. They laughed. They cried. They loved it.
I just sat there, watching them watch my play. All my shit. All my skeletons. All my innermost thoughts were there for all to see. Real life with the boring bits removed. And they came from all walks of my life. My immediate family, friends, colleagues, and perfect strangers. Many of them had no idea what to expect.
What a schizophrenic moment. The playwright, the director, the dramaturge, the producer, the ‘me’… all sitting there in the same headspace, in the same physical space, in the same way, all looking out and looking in, trying to make sense of it, trying to appreciate it, and trying to bottle that moment.
Though confused… it was a pretty good feeling.
It started on Friday when Don Kugler, my director, Heather Inglis and Colleen Murphy, the festival dramaturges, and I all sat around a table and started to discuss the process moving forward. They explained that this process was about me. It was there for me to see the play, make tweaks, and move onto the next draft(s). Seeing and hearing the play is a much different experience than reading it.
Saturday morning I met my cast. We ran it and already I was starting to see where the play could use some adjustments. I never addressed the cast directly with notes. Don was my conduit. It forced me to sit there and simply be the playwright. Besides, Don and the rest of the cast brought ideas to it that I never thought of. It was good to simply step back and see where these other artists could take it. I learned so much from watching it.
Afterwards, Don myself and our intern Karen, poured over the script and discussed potential changes. Nearly every page had pencil marks on it. There was going to be a new scene added, and a major rewrite of another scene. I was excited and immediately set to work on the next draft.
Later that night, Don and the cast came over to my place and we had an improv blender party. I bought a bunch of different fruit, milk, chocolate milk, juice, and my Havana rum. Everyone had to take a turn mixing up a drink in the blender and serving it to the rest of the group. It was a really great time and a good bonding experience.
I finished the new draft on Sunday afternoon and brought the new scripts into our rehearsal. By this point Don had the cast working through and blocking the play, scene by scene, beat by beat. After two hours we were up to scene five and I really wanted to see how Act II would feel (where the new scene and most of the rewrites took place). Don had the cast sit around the table and read. It seemed to hold together and the cast liked the new changes.
Over the next 36 hours more tweaks, rewrites and deletions were pencilled into the script. It came so far and changed so dramatically in two days… far more than I ever would have expected. We did our final run on Monday afternoon and went our separate ways. CBC Radio interviewed me about the play and then I went home for some ‘me’ time. I phoned PJ and talked about old times with her. I ate, watched TV, and then put on my playwright uniform.
Back at the University, I hung out back stage with the cast for a spell, fell into some conversations with the other playwrights, and paced nervously. Everyone wished me well. They were all there for me. It was an honour and a completely humbling experience.
When Nadia (Thelma) showed up, we took our seats at the back of the theatre, the play began, and my life unfolded once more.